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#BlackGirlMagic: English Department Holds Second Annual Black History Month Essay Contest

Zora Neale Hurston (Photo Courtesy of Flickr.com)

February is in full swing and in honor of Black History Month, LBCC’s English department is holding its second annual Black History Month Essay Contest.

The contest calls for students to examine Zora Neale Hurston’s essay “How it Feels To Be Colored Me” and showcase their understanding of the piece by correlating it to this year’s topic of #BlackGirlMagic in 350 to 500 words.

Created and popularized by CaShawn Thompson in 2013, #BlackGirlMagic is a movement intended to celebrate the power, beauty, and resilience of black women. English faculty member, Dr. Ramycia McGhee, who created the Black History Month Essay Contest last year in 2018, chose the topic of #BlackGirlMagic because she wanted to honor the spirit of black women in the U.S.  

“This movement was a way to embrace who we are, embrace our different skin tones, embrace our natural hair, embrace our natural features, and celebrate who we are as women, and as a culture of women in America,” said McGhee.

McGhee decided to base the essay around Hurston’s work because she felt “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” embodied the spirit of #BlackGirlMagic in 1928, long before the term was actually created.

“The Harlem renaissance was an amazing time for black people as it was an explosion of culture and art and beauty. So I think [Hurston] writing this piece is so significant because even in that time Black Girl Magic was happening but the phrase just hadn’t been coined.”

McGhee hopes that this year’s contest can build off of the success of last year’s theme of “witnessing.” She believes that the contest, paired with the Black History Month film series hosted by the DAC will help better illuminate the relevance of #BlackGirlMagic today.

“We want to keep it going, we want to keep the conversation moving. And this year, why not have it line up with the film series which includes Bessie Smith and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and Billy Holiday, and all these amazing women who have paved the way for your Beyonces, your Rihanas, your Szas, all these different women.”

Dr. Tristan Striker, who was hired on to take over the American Literature courses, is also co-running the contest with McGhee.

“African American Literature and American Literature obviously go hand-in-hand. Actually, my focus in my own studies has been on African American literature, so it was kind of a no-brainer to get involved with Ramycia and push and promote this really important event,” said Striker.

“In relation not just to current events, but also historically, how, institutionally there has sometimes been a little bit of pushback in celebrating things like this on campuses. But I feel like here, people are very open to it, people are very welcoming of it. So why not dive right in and make it something powerful?”

The deadline for the contest is Feb. 22 and it’s open to any LBCC students. The winner will receive a cash prize, earn an opportunity to speak at this year’s Unity Celebration on Feb. 28, serve on next year’s essay judging committee, and also be published in a future edition of the Commuter.
For more information please contact McGhee at mcgheer@linnbenton.edu and Striker at striket@linnbenton.edu. Or stop by their offices in NSH 214 and 215 respectively.

Story by Josh Stickrod

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